UFC 87, with the inane subtitle Seek and Destroy, took place on August 9th, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The prelims began with Ben Saunders Vs. Ryan Thomas- Saunders is a very tall and lanky welterweight and if that wasn't enough of an advantage, Thomas was also a late replacement. A decent scrap with a nice finish by some guys who need some seasoning. Be it conditioning or jitters, both are very tired by only the second round. Chris Wilson Vs Steve Bruno- Again, WW's, with the mix it up striking of Wilson versus the wrestling base of Bruno. Aside from Wilson's unpredictable combos, my biggest impression was wonderment at the dumb local referee (Nick Gamst), who kept telling them to fight or breaking up moments when they were fighting for position or in natural states of catching a needed breath. Jon Jones Vs. Andre Gusmao- It is stated that 21 year old former Greco Roman wrestler Jones has only been fighting for 9 months. Thats amazing. While he controls this fight with aggression, some of that lack of experience shows in some unintentional low blows and flashy but ineffective strikes. Cheik Kongo Vs. Dan Evenson- I hate to say a serious fight between two massive, scary heavyweights is funny to me, but Evenson has no poker face and seems to wince at everything Kongo (really he should just change his name to that- KONGO!) throws at him on the ground and the feet. Curious that this has the first post fight interview on the disc- curious because it is in the indecipherable broken English of Frenchman Kongo. Luke Cummo Vs. Tamden McCrory- Somewhat lackluster but only because I've seen the tough Cummo lose like this a few times before. The vegan simply lacks muscle and wrestling on the mat. Cummo has good defense, sure (I dont think he's lost via KO or sub), but McCrory basically takes him down over and over, controlling and threatening him, making each round more or less a repeat of the first.
The solid main card began with Jason McDonald Vs. Damian Maia- Maia is one of the most decorated and respected Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners in MMA. McDonald apparently doesn't care and works for clinches and takedowns, as well as handily accepting Maia's guard pulls. The fight mainly takes place on the mat with each man gamely jockeying for close subs and damage. Between the second and third, MacDonald's corner screams at him to quit engaging in a ground battle, but he doesn't listen. That one tactical error is all a guy like Maia needs. Kenny Florian Vs. Roger Huerta- Prefight, lightweight contender Florian says his gameplan is "attack, attack, attack" versus hot-headed, brawling, Sports illustrated cover boy Huerta. Turns out the soundbite should have been, "potshot, potshot, potshot," as Florian wisely doesn't engage in the caveman fisticuffs Huerta desires and positively baffles Huerta with superior movement and crisper striking. Manny Gamburyan vs. Rob Emerson- Two words- don't blink. Brock Lesnar Vs. Heath Herring- Former pro wrassler and champion of amazingly bad tattoo's, Lesnar was signed to the UFC for six figures a fight despite being a MMA novice and promptly lost his debut. In this, his second UFC fight, they pitted him against veteran Herring, who's development as an MMA fighter ended some four or five years ago. Lesnar's hometown crowd gets watch their man basically manhandle Herring with superior wrestling and size for three rounds.
The main event was Georges St. Pierre Vs. Jon Fitch for St. Pierre's welterweight title. GSP is pretty much a fight promoters dream. Well-rounded skillwise (or as commentator Mike Goldberg redundantly states, an "athletically gifted athlete"). Attractive. Respectful. And, from his training to self-promotion, GSP seems to take every aspect of the game seriously. No slouch himself, Fitch is less-assuming, a more road tested fighter, long shucked onto prelims, racking up eight consecutive wins ensuring that he had to be noticed. This is a tough, tough, fight. The first round is nearly all GSP, hitting Fitch with a neck-snapping right hand after Fitch throws a lazy leg kick, then smashing him on the mat. This five rounder shows why GSP is deserving of being a title holder, pulling off a technically assured victory on the feet and on the mat. On the other hand, Fitch shows why he deserved a shot with his respectable resiliency and refusal to go away.
Picture: The fight card is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen. The past few years UFC has really done a nice job with their quality standards. The transfer reflects this with a decent image in all details, color, contrast, sharpness, with no severe technical faults. Rest assured, the five shades of the hematoma under Fitch's left eye are there in all their gruesome glory.
Sound: The event has two basic 2.0 Stereo tracks, one in English the other in Spanish. In the first moments of the intro the audio is a tad out of sync (really its just for 10-15 seconds). A minor detail, probably from the original broadcast and left uncorrected. Otherwise, it is your standard bag, crisp and as responsive as it needs to be with no extra fuss.
Extras: A second disc of extras includes the Spike tv Countdown show (39:14), Weigh-in footage (14:37), Behind the Scenes Featurette (44:17), and UFC.com features (41:08). Out of the three UFC events I've reviewed this month, which share the same event specific features, this was by far the best. The Behind the Scenes footage goes the extra mile, not only following GSP and Fitch, but the last twenty minutes or so gives a nice little overview of GSP's entire title-challenging career. Likewise, the .com features are just a tad longer and more thorough via giving those often unhealed prelim'ers some interview time.
Conclusion: This is a very solid card. The matches display a good round of technique, from the intelligence+muscle of the ground game, to the reflex+accuracy of striking. You get fresher faces, those still trying to make a mark, established contenders, and a great champion. The presentation is fine and the extras are informative, digging into personality and strategy of those involved in the fight game. Get it.